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Origin of mshikaki and it’s various varieties

You have probably seen them being roasted along the streets or outside your favorite watering hole. They smell good and some taste as good, it all depends on how they were marinated and prepared.

But do you know the origins of what in Kenya is referred to as mshikaki?

The roasting of meat dates back to antiquity and various cultures have made improvements on the art. The use of skewers is just one of the many variations of this art.

Skewers are thin metal or wooden sticks used to hold pieces of food – in most cases meat – together during grilling or roasting.

The tradition of using skewers was recorded in the histories of many areas. Materials from which modern skewers are made range from the traditional wood and bamboo, to the glass, metal and other decorative materials.

There are many types of mshikaki’s which are sold and served “on a stick” or skewer, especially at outdoor markets, and sidewalk or roadside stands.

Probably you are used to beef or chicken skewers. Here are a few mshikaki’s from around the world.


In Japan skewers are very popular and are simply known as Yakitori. Both yakitori and kushiyaki are used interchangeably in Japanese society to refer to skewered meat collectively, however, when referring to a specific item, yakitori will not be used unless the primary meat is chicken.

In Greece it’s called Souvlaki (skewer) and consists of small skewers of pork, barbecued, then served plain, with salad. Chicken and lamb are also sometimes used.

In Hawaii they like everything pineapple and they like to add spam and onions and they are sold on the roadside stands.

In Southeast Asian the dish consists of diced or sliced meat, skewered and grilled over a fire, then served with various spicy seasonings.

In South Africa it’s called Sosate which is a dish of the Cape Malay people.

In West Africa they call it Suya Kewap and are very popular spicy meat enjoyed by many.

In Nigeria, skewers have tastes of peanuts and spicy pepper and are sold by street vendors as a snack or entire meal. They are enjoyed with onion and bell pepper pieces.